No means no
The start of a new year has always been my favourite time because, for me, it symbolises and opportunity for renewal - a chance to start over.
The start of 2017 has definitely thrown me for a loop, because there have been so many disturbing things happening in the news, and it's hard to ignore.
From the reports of women being killed at the hands of their partners to this blatant sexual abuse and misconduct by these powerful men of underage girls - let's just say that my favourite time of the year is losing its spark for me.
One good thing that comes out of this reporting is the exposure of the truth. I am happy that these deplorable men are being dragged out, and that we are able to see their true colours.
I hope more of them are exposed sooner rather than later. Another thing that has happened as a result of the exposure of these heinous acts is the conversation about sexual assault, rape and harassment.
I am happy that the public is engaged in trying to figure out what's appropriate, what's not and how to tell the difference. This brings me to the issue of consent.
I have personally been in several conversations with individuals who seem to be confused about consent and what they should use as permission or what can be interpreted to be consent.
"She said no, but her body says yes."
This statement is used often to justify why a verbal NO is ignored - some persons go as far to say that she was clearly aroused, so she wanted to have sex; so her saying no is irrelevant.
This thought process is not only incorrect, it's a big concern because it immediately disregards what she says to indicate her interest in having sex with a partner.
If she says no, that is the only message that counts, regardless of how 'aroused' she appears to be.
"But she had an orgasm."
There are rapists who have used the fact that the victim had an orgasm during their assault to justify that no rape was committed.
This is incorrect - an orgasm is an involuntary physiological response to stimuli. So it does not turn a NO to YES.
Rape victims have been unwilling to report their ordeal because they've had an orgasm, but that does not make their experience any less traumatic.
"She looks like she's enjoying herself."
It disturbs me greatly when I hear people talk about a rape victim and comment on the looks on their faces while being assaulted.
This is irrelevant - if the victim did not give consent and is forced to engage in sexual contact, regardless of how her face looks during the act, it's rape.
"We did it several time before."
Getting consent in a previous sexual encounter does not apply to future ones. Even if you have had sex with her too many times to remember, she can still say no this time and it will mean no.
"Look at what she was wearing, what did she expect?"
There is no outfit that a woman wears that guarantees consent, not even nudity. Talking about what she's wearing is used in many rape trials, because there is an attempt to establish that when a woman dresses a certain way, she's 'asking for it'.
As we try to navigate a world where it seems young girls and women are still being victimised, and there still seems to be some confusion as to what consent really looks like, my advice is simple.
If there's an absence of a YES, you do not have consent. Ask the question, be clear with your intentions and ensure that you get a clear response before you proceed.
Leave no room for misinterpretation, and ensure that she is conscious - an unconscious person cannot give consent.